Employee perceptions of their workplace have been impacted by events of the last several years, including COVID-19, the housing crisis, unemployment, and rising consumer costs. CEOs in the news predict continuing economic uncertainty, asserting the need for cost reductions and embracing efficiency. In the chaotic economy, organizations are implementing robotic process automation (RPA) technology tools to seek a competitive advantage during these times of fiscal uncertainty.


RPA technology automates repetitive, low-value tasks while improving efficiency and reducing errors in manual business processes. Unlike an Excel macro that replicates a few application keystrokes, RPA overlays existing software, spanning multiple applications, and extends the automation reach beyond the desktop. An RPA tool within the procure-to-pay cycle retrieves vendor invoices, populates the accounts payable system, and forwards the payment request to an approver.


Multiple manual tasks that require several employees with multiple computer applications are automated by a single RPA tool that completes the process. While organizations embrace the potential to reduce low value tasks with automation that increases throughput speed and reduces error rates, employees are haunted by implications: “The robots are coming.” Employees, cognizant of the potential of AI, RPA, and machine learning, feel increasing job fear from technology. Organizational leadership must act carefully to not damage fragile employee relations while also seeking to avail themselves of the benefits of RPA.


Successful RPA implementation, therefore, requires a structured communication plan that ensures employees receive timely and transparent information. Effective communication tools are fundamental to the project planning and implementation of RPA. As employees become aware of RPA implementation projects, they’ll speculate as to the project’s impact through a lens of employment fear.


Employees will respond to a lack of information about a project by filling in their own expectations, often a worst-case scenario, and then that topic becomes the unproductive distraction in their day. Such distractions will deflate morale and may have a broader reputational risk long after the technology transition if, for example, lingering social media posts about the perceived fear around the lack of trust from leadership discourages future employment candidates from pursuing opportunities with the organization. A solid communication plan will ensure the early whispers don’t translate to distraction and panic.




Organizations have a responsibility to employees to provide a clear and honest message about the company’s intentions. By proactively communicating early in the planning stages, organizations have the opportunity to manage the message and limit the distraction, fear, and disruption.


Within the overall project management plan, the project charter will define major stakeholders, including management, employees, vendors, suppliers, and the community. The project team will look to the project charter to understand all stakeholder roles and identify the timing and mechanism to convey project updates relevant to those stakeholders to ensure that they’re all included in the communication plan and, when appropriate, their feedback is solicited.




The prelaunch message to the organization is vital to success. The message should be delivered from the project sponsor at a senior leadership level sufficient to ensure employees understand both the importance of a successful RPA implementation and to reinforce both the importance of the employees to the organization and the organization’s commitment to their professional success.


The message should acknowledge that most of the employees have heard something about the RPA project. The message should provide clarity to the scope of work, which major stakeholders will be impacted, and in what way. The message should convey that all technology projects encounter unexpected challenges in the process, and that leadership will regularly update the organization as the project unfolds.


Leadership should expect that employee job fear will be a natural human response to the unknown. Clearly convey the project goals, expected outcomes, and what employees can anticipate during implementation and after launch. Help diffuse job fear and the organization’s reputational risk by announcing that any affected departments will be contacted by a specific date in the near future.


The organization needs to engage with vendors and suppliers to ensure they understand the project goals and seek their support to engage in aspects of the project that impact their operations, such as electronic invoice formats and purchase orders. These partner organizations may have completed similar projects with other partner organizations and have insights into application program interfaces. A collaborative approach will benefit both organizations.




Technology implementation may cause planned or unplanned work interruptions and raise employee stress about meeting their goals for timely task completion. A pilot test may require some employees to run simultaneous parallel processes to test the automation’s effectiveness and identify exceptions. Communications with exception reporting tools will provide valuable perspectives on implementation progress. Management should provide regular status updates aligned with the schedule provided in the project sponsor prelaunch message.


Project updates should convey any changes to the project schedule and share lessons learned during the implementation phase. When employee feedback is received, it’s always important to respond to confirm that management is listening and cares about employee success. Many employees have never experienced a large-scale system integration and aren’t aware project planning includes tolerances for variances. It’s important for management to communicate that project scope sometimes changes, which impacts scope outcomes and schedules.




When the RPA tool goes live, the affected departments will need time to adjust to the new normal. Ongoing communication should help cement the organization’s commitment to both its employees and the new technology so as to help deflect the potential to step back to the manual processes. Employee surveys and facilitated listening sessions during the project planning, implementation, and operational phases are opportunities to receive key insights into potential risks. Management should also acknowledge the successful technology implementation and the impact on the employees, the organization, and partners. Building consensus for the objectives and outcomes of the project will validate the project in the minds of employees and help as a foundational reference for future projects.


RPA, like other new technologies, has the potential for enterprise-level impacts on internal and external stakeholders. The organization should design a thoughtful project management communication plan to quell fears and help maintain momentum toward a successful project launch.

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